My top 5 Tardis teams

Now that Clara’s snuffed it, and the Doctor-Companion team of the last two years has come to a tragic end, I feel like I ought to assess where Twelve and Clara figure in my personal game of Doctor-Companion top trumps.

Here are my five favourite Doctor-Companion teams of the last 52 years.


5. Four and Romana

Technically this is two Tardis teams, but I really couldn’t choose between the two Romanas here. Romana (both of them) is probably my favourite classic companion, and I thought they both had superb, highly watchable dynamics with Tom Baker’s aloof, alien Doctor. To be honest, Tom Baker’s extraordinary and mesmerising Doctor makes any Doctor-Companion team he’s part of delightfully engaging to watch, but I adored most of all watching him with Romana.

His relationship with the first Romana, played by the beautiful Mary Tamm, was brilliant because it seemed like the Doctor had finally met his match in a companion. Unlike the succession of dim humans he’d taken to travelling with, who awed at his intelligence and obediently did as they were told, Romana considered herself his equal, if not his superior: she was just as intelligent as he was, if not more, and made a point of reminding him of her superior academic accomplishments. She rarely took orders from him without argument and was generally something entirely new to the Doctor. It was brilliant. Nevertheless, they had a great friendship and, despite their prickly moments, were a joy to watch together.

The Fourth Doctor with the second Romana, played by Lalla Ward, was a warmer and more intimate relationship, Romana less icy and prickly towards the Doctor, more fond of him and more appreciative of his experience. Four and Romana II had a more traditional Doctor-Companion relationship of uncomplicated friendship and mutual love of adventure, but the team of two Time Lords still made for a very unconventional and distinctive dynamic. Romana was still, in many ways, the Doctor’s equal, and, accordingly, her relationship with Tom Baker’s Doctor was nothing like that of Sarah-Jane or Leela. It was intellectual and clever and very alien. I loved that. It also helped that there was romance between Tom Baker and Lalla Ward offscreen, manifesting itself onscreen in wonderful chemistry between the Doctor and companion.

I think my favourite Four-Romana moment might have been the Doctor and Romana gadding about Paris in City of Death. They were too cute, and Romana looked just lovely in her schoolgirl outfit.

4. Ten and Donna

Ten and Donna were surely the definitive Doctor-Companion pairing of the Tenth Doctor’s era. Ten and Rose were sweet, but Ten and Donna were genuinely fun. Like Twelve and Clara, Ten and Donna were just two best friends romping around time and space, having the time of their lives together. They were just great mates, and that was their irresistible charm. It helped that Catherine Tate was hilarious, and that Tate and David Tennant had positively electric chemistry together. The banter was — literally — out of this world.

We all remember Ten and Donna fondly for the banter and the comedy and the great friendship between the two, but one of the most memorable and significant Ten-Donna moments was surely Donna’s pleading with the Doctor in The Fires of Pompeii to save Caecilius and his family. It showed how important Donna was to the Doctor personally, that she was more than just a good friend to him. To an extent I don’t think Rose or Martha would have been able to stand up to the Doctor like Donna did in that episode and cut down the Doctor’s Time Lord pretensions the way she did.

3. One, Susan, Ian and Barbara

The original Tardis team. These four were a quirky and eclectic mix of characters, but they were the most endearing and lovable group you could find. There was the tetchy, spiky First Doctor, who nevertheless exuded a certain magic and twinkle that made you love him, and who mellowed over time, under the influence of his companions, into the whimsical, charming, compassionate figure we now recognise as the Doctor. There was Susan, the Doctor’s sweet teenage granddaughter, a rather helpless figure at first, but who eventually came into her own, and eventually left in Doctor Who’s first ever heartbreaking companion exit, the beginning of a beloved tradition. Ian and Barbara, Susan’s abducted schoolteachers, were the most lovely pair, bringing a human groundedness to the first years of the show that could easily otherwise have been very alien. Together they were like a family, albeit a very odd family, all were written so well that you couldn’t help feeling a strong connection to them.

Part of the charm of their unique dynamic was that they were all stuck together, thrown together under unfortunate circumstances (the Tardis was malfunctioning), traipsing across time and space together trying to find a way out of their situation. None of them, except perhaps Susan, was particularly enamoured with the situation they had all found themselves in together at first, but they all grew so close and fond of each other over time. Even the Doctor, who was positively antagonistic towards Ian and Barbara at first, became very fond of them, and came to appreciate the little family he had found himself with, and, when Ian and Barbara eventually found a way to return to Earth, he was very upset and saddened to see them leave.

2. Twelve and Clara

twelveclara2

Now that I’ve seen two series of Twelve and Clara, I can say confidently that I love them more than any other Tardis team save for Eleven, Amy and Rory. Clara herself is kind of a middling companion for me — I like her, and she’s grown on me immensely in Series 9 — but she isn’t among my favourites. That said, though, I think Twelve and Clara are nothing short of perfect together. They’re an odd couple, the old man and the pretty young woman, but it works so well. These too are as close as any Doctor and companion can be; they’re not lovers, like Ten and Rose, but just best friends, inseparable friends, who are each other’s entire universes, enjoying each other’s company while they explore the universe together. They’re, frankly, adorable to watch together, and I’m going to miss them so much now that Clara’s gone.

Basically any scene where Twelve and Clara are having fun and enjoying themselves together is vintage Twelve-Clara. Take your pick. A particular favourite of mine was Twelve lecturing Clara on the use of the word “space” before things in Sleep No More. But also the final moments of Last Christmas were terrific, Clara and the Doctor gazing fiercely, almost lovingly, into each other’s eyes, the spirit of adventure taken hold of them both, their connection stronger than it’s ever been.

1. Eleven, Amy and Rory

What can I say? Eleven is my favourite Doctor and Amy is my favourite companion. Eleven’s era is my favourite era of the show, in no small part because of the wonderful characters of the Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond, and her long-suffering husband, Rory Pond Williams. Amy and Rory were just the most adorable, romantic couple, and their relationship with the zany, wacky Eleventh Doctor made them an irresistible Tardis team, and a positive joy to watch together.

I have a sentimental attachment to these three, because, having only started watching the show in earnest during Eleven’s era, they were my “first” Tardis team, the first Doctor and companion team I followed week-to-week. I think they might have been a major part of the reason I became a fan of this show, because I adored these three wonderful characters so much.

Some of my favourite moments with these three include their reunion in The Pandorica Opens — the Doctor’s hilarious reunion with Roman Rory, and Rory’s touching attempts to get through to Amy. Also, just watching these three muck about was magical, as in episodes like The Power of Three, otherwise a fairly unremarkable script.


What are your favourite Doctor-Companion teams?

Thoughts on: The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End

What a show. I’d forgotten how incredible the Series 4 finale was, and I’m happy to admit I was thoroughly blown away upon this rewatch. Russell T Davies upped the ante to full blast and delivered the most magnitudinous story yet, the stakes higher than they’ve ever been before or possibly since, and a great, walloping belter of a script to go with it. It was simply epic. This was RTD’s magnum opus, even, I daresay, outshining the magnificent Series 1 finale, or at the very least matching it. It simply had everything: Daleks, Davros, the end of the universe, every possible character from the preceding four years you could ever have wanted brought back, Rose, and two (three?) Doctors. Admittedly, there was a great deal of nonsense in there—something on this scale is bound to have a bit of nonsense—but somehow even the nonsense came together with everything to produce one of RTD’s most memorable stories of all.

The Earth has moved. That was the ingenious and jaw-dropping plot point established at the outset of The Stolen Earth. It wasn’t only the characters who were left in awe as the sky congested with heavenly bodies. It soon becomes clear, of course, that this was the Daleks’ doing. A chill ran down my spine when I heard that Dalek battle cry: “Exterminate!”. The dread and tears in the eyes of Martha, Jack and Sarah-Jane as the Dalek mantra played out over the recording expressed more than words could. We, the viewers, having seen the Doctor defeat the Daleks so many times now have become desensitised to the threat of the Daleks, but the terror the Daleks truly are capable of inducing was so powerfully conveyed in this scene that the threat became real. Say what you want about the Daleks’ being reused too much, but scenes like this show that the producers know how to keep them scary. This was particularly brought home to me when we were shown scenes of the Daleks destroying the city and murdering civilians—perhaps for the first time in the revival we were shown the true, terrible destructive power of the Daleks. And then Davros showed up, as creepy and gruesome as ever, and that’s when it became obvious that sh*t was getting real.

There was a very bleak, gloomy little sequence where it looked like all had been lost, that everyone had given up without a fight. Sarah-Jane, and Captain Jack and Torchwood were all resigned to the end. “I’m sorry. We’re dead,” said Jack, utterly broken. Sarah-Jane was hugging and weeping for her boy. The United Nations had surrendered Earth to the Daleks. The Doctor stood in grim silence as Donna begged him vainly to do something. It was intense, somber viewing. But then the familiar, irritating voice of Harriet Jones, former Prime Minister (okay, okay, you know…), cut in and an optimistic ray of hope glinted through the black clouds. She began mobilising the Doctor’s old allies and friends, and I felt more affection for her then than ever before. As the Doctor’s allies began moving to get in contact with him, it was obvious what a profound influence the Doctor has had on each of these people. I was somewhat reminded of Dumbledore’s Army from Harry Potter, those loyal to the Doctor holding out and mobilising a resistance in his name, following his example… Needless to say, Harriet Jones went out with nobility when she sacrificed herself to ensure the Subwave signal reached the Doctor. The Doctor would have been proud.

It was painful watching Rose’s frustration that she was unable to speak to the Doctor when the Doctor finally made contact with his Army. Nevertheless, that made their eventual reunion in person all the more moving. Rose and the Doctor’s reunion was truly stirring. I came as close as I ever have to tearing up watching Doctor Who. This being Who, though, there had to be a catch, and that cockblocking Dalek set up one killer of a cliffhanger. A triple-pronger, involving Sarah-Jane and Donna’s parents separately about to be exterminated by Daleks, and the Doctor regenerating, surely that was the best cliffhanger this show has ever done? I remember being in agony after watching that when this episode was first broadcast. I’m sure everyone was. The siphoning of the Doctor’s regeneration energy into his spare hand, his “bio-matching receptacle” was clever, but it was a bit of a waste of a regeneration on the part of RTD, all for a good cliffhanger. But, God, it was a good cliffhanger.

We meet the Daleks and the TARDIS and Donna are deposited into the molten core of the Crucible. Enter the Meta-Crisis Doctor, growing out of the Doctor’s glowing, regeneration energy-saturated hand. I think we were all as shocked as Donna was. Many disparage the Meta-Crisis Doctor as an absurd product of creative excess on RTD’s part, a character dreamed up just to give Rose a happy ending (implicitly spoiling her “perfect” ending in the Series 2 finale), and I can see where such criticisms are coming from, but… yeah, I don’t know how to justify my liking of the creation of the Meta-Doctor and my overlooking all the continuity issues it created other than to say that I just found the Meta-Doctor an awesome plot device in this story. I was grinning from ear to ear when the Meta-Doctor appeared, starkers, and slightly raving, and saved Donna and the TARDIS at the last second. I also thought it was awesome when all seemed lost, the Reality Bomb about to be detonated, and the TARDIS, radiating with celestial light, appeared in the Daleks’ midst. “Brilliant”, as Jack said, about sums it up. RTD, in typical fashion, though, gave us hope and then cruelly snatched it away. Usually this would be the point where the day is saved, but this is RTD we’re talking about, who revels in the cruelly unexpected. This is the man who, in Voyage of the Damned, made the Doctor promise to all the characters that he would save them, and then proceeded to kill off all of them except the most disagreeable one. It was never going to be that predictable.

I want to take a moment to talk about the way this story commented upon the Doctor’s character. Davros observed piercingly that, though the Doctor renounces violence and refuses to carry a weapon, the way he fights is perhaps even more sinister: he conscripts his companions and fashions them into weapons to do the bloody business he won’t do. He keeps his hands clean while his companions, his foot-soldiers, bloody theirs in his name and on his behalf. He changes his companions, makes them into murderers. This is a constant trope running through Doctor Who; it’s one of the integral functions of the companion: the Doctor can’t be seen to be engaging in violence, so the companion carries out what violence needs to be committed. Only now has this pattern ever actually been commented on onscreen and shown to be a reflection of the Doctor’s character, of the sinister effect of the Doctor’s influence and of the genuinely disturbing manipulativeness of the Doctor. That the Doctor manipulates and influences his companions into potentially committing genocide (and actually committing genocide—remember Rose as the Bad Wolf?) perhaps makes him even more sinister than if he were to do it himself. Davros about summed it up: “The Doctor. The man who keeps running, never looking back because he dare not, out of shame. This is my final victory, Doctor. I have shown you yourself.” The Doctor’s soul was laid bare, and I, at least, found it captivating and compelling viewing—disturbing, yes, but still captivating.

I loved the Doctor-Donna resolution. I found it really exhilarating and just awesome. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t grin broadly the first time they watched Donna wiggling those controls and prattling off incomprehensible techno-babble to stop the detonation and make sock-puppets of the Daleks. Some hate it. I adore it. I know it’s ridiculous nonsense and a total deus ex machina cop-out if there ever was one—the idea that Donna’s humanity made her even more brilliant than the Doctor when she absorbed the Doctor’s mind was particularly ridiculous—but I just found it a wonderfully ecstatic resolution. I’m more than willing to overlook the admittedly absurd “walking plot resolution created purely by chance” that was Doctor-Donna, as one reviewer described it, because of how much I enjoyed watching that. I found it satisfying and fulfilling, and that scene, more than any other, made me love Donna. Meta-Doctor’s annihilation of the Daleks was also a very confronting moment, and Davros’s hysterical denunciation of the Doctor as “Destroyer of Worlds” was chillingly powerful, an uncharacteristically dark note amidst the jubilant resolution.

The sight of the Doctor(s) and all his companions and friends bringing the Earth back home was ecstatic and heartwarming, a tribute not only to all the characters and actors who contributed to the RTD era, but an exultant tribute to companionship and working together. It was a lovely, beautiful scene, the Doctor surrounded by all the people whose lives he’s touched and who love him. What a striking contrast it was only a short time later, after the Doctor had seen all his companions off, and he stood in the TARDIS, alone again. Saying farewell to Donna must have been particularly agonising for him. It was agonising enough to watch. It was heartbreaking watching Donna plead with the Doctor not to send her back, not to turn her back into how she was. She knew, more than anyone, that she was better for having been with the Doctor, which made it all the more tragic that she had to lose it all, everything she’d been and done, and go back to how she was. Oh, Donna, you didn’t deserve this. RTD really knows how to tug the heartstrings.

To summarise my disjointed review, I thought this finale was spectacular. Absolutely spectacular. I only write this much for a review when I think the story truly merits it—the last time I wrote this much was for Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways, which was also an amazing finale. It ended on a poignant note, setting up the “farewell tour” that would be the specials year, culminating in the Tenth Doctor’s magnificent swan song, The End of Time. For now, though, I thought RTD ended his last series as Doctor Who’s showrunner on a lustrous high, this finale the gleaming culmination of a fantastic series in general. Bravo.

Rating: 10/10.

Thoughts on: Turn Left

The producers probably couldn’t have done anything more recklessly audacious than to follow up the dark, depressing Midnight with the possibly even grimmer Turn Left. This is surely one of the darkest televised stories Doctor Who has ever produced, a bleak “what if?” following the trail of events that would ensue if the Doctor had never met and been saved by Donna Noble at Christmas in 2006. And a world without the Doctor is truly terrifying. So many of the catastrophes the Doctor averted were allowed to occur, as were all the deaths the Doctor would have prevented, and the death toll is enormous. Particularly grievous was the crashing of the Titanic into Buckingham Palace on Christmas Day 2007, making all of south England uninhabitable and turning the country into a giant refugee camp. The social and economic strife that ensues stokes the flames of extremism and ushers in fascist rule over the green and pleasant lands of England, the country that in living memory fought to deliver Europe’s salvation from the Hitlerite scourge. The scene where the Colasanto family are being carted off to a concentration camp was spine-chilling in its bleak, emotive power, surely one of the most confronting things Doctor Who has ever shown. It’s even more depressingly shocking when one realises that this is only one planet that the Doctor’s absence has so profoundly affected; think of the rest of the universe—indeed, if Rose is to be believed, all universes. All this from one fatal, seemingly unremarkable decision by Donna to turn right. It could have been overblown and unconvincing, but it was all so believable, and chillingly so.

This story was also about Donna. We were brought back to Donna, the uncultured, uncouth temp from Chiswick, and followed her transformation as her world was swept from under her feet and her life thrown into turmoil. Her mother descended into depression and defeatism. Her grandfather fell back on his wartime spirit. Donna got angry at the world but summoned up something profound inside her, a will and a strength to keep going and beat away the bad, bleak world around her. This was particularly brought home to me in that intimate little scene in the Nobles’ billet house where Donna was trying to assure her mother, albeit vainly, that she would find a job and get them out of their sad situation. Personal crisis on this scale brought out the extraordinary person in Donna that she truly was, mirroring, in a rather more unhappy way, Donna’s personal development throughout Series 4 into the very thoroughly changed person from who she was in The Runaway Bride, even in Partners in Crime. Ultimately Donna had got to the point where she had resolved herself to sacrificing her own life for all of Creation, to leaving this world to restore the world that had never been but should have been. In doing so she showed herself to be the remarkable, amazing person Rose insisted she was, almost certainly more than Rose thought, even more than the Doctor thought I’d daresay. Catherine Tate’s acting throughout this episode was simply astounding. Tate hasn’t really been given scripts this series that have allowed her to show off her acting talents, but in Turn Left she delivered an emotive, intense, heartwarming and heartbreaking performance.

Rose was a bit… odd… in this episode. Don’t get me wrong, it was fantastic to see Rose again, but she was written very strangely. Rose, of course has developed, too, since we first met her, and doubtless she’s changed even more during her time in her parallel universe, but she was strangely… alien in this episode. She was something of an enigma, flitting in and out of Donna’s life and talking in cryptic riddles like a Christmas ghost. Even when Donna finally agrees to accompany Rose and Rose can speak more openly, she seems distinctly alien, ostensibly enjoying watching Donna traumatised and close to breaking point first over seeing the creature on her back and then over having to accept what she’s expected to do, Rose even deliberately provoking Donna at one point. Rose is unsettlingly callous in the face of Donna’s stress and angst while Donna needs someone to soothe her and give her support. This is very unlike the Rose I know. Maybe I’m missing something, but I was a bit unnerved. If I didn’t know better I’d think Rose didn’t particularly care about Donna, she was just using her to fix the universe and get to the Doctor…

Nevertheless, that cliffhanger was electrifying. This episode in general was outstanding. The only other criticism I’d make would be that it was a bit oddly structured. It didn’t flow as naturally and effectively as it should have, which made following the story just slightly disconcerting. In any case, in general it was an exceptional story.

Rating: 9/10.

Thoughts on: Midnight

The genius of this script lies in its simplicity. It’s a group of people in a room talking for forty-five minutes. That’s really it. The simplicity of the script facilitates the intimate study of these people that made up this story. What happens when you put a group of ordinary people in a locked room with an unseen monster? That was the question this phenomenal script set out to explore. A disturbing study in group psychology, this captivating story presented us with a grisly vision of humanity in stark contrast to Doctor Who’s usual gushing celebration of our species, showing us how a group of ordinary humans can turn into a lynch mob. When the ship first stops, we initially see the Doctor trying to reason with the confused group as it starts to become hysterical—and successfully manages to calm them all down… at first. When the creature makes an appearance, thudding on the exterior of the ship and eventually taking over Sky, the Doctor increasingly loses his control and hold over the group as their fear drives them to become ever more hysterical. The Doctor struggles to reason with them and keep them calm. Their fear took them beyond reason, however: the critical moment came when the Hostess suggested, “We should throw her out.” At that point, the group had gone beyond the point of no return, and the Doctor’s vain pleading was not going to prevent the inevitable lynching; their fear was too powerful.

I’ll say it again, this is a truly disquieting and compelling study in group psychology. The group’s increasing fear and hysteria took them so beyond reason and inhibition and sensibility such that they were driven to almost commit murder, almost two murders. The sight of the helpless Doctor being dragged by Biff and Professor Hobbes through the shuttle, egged on by others—particularly that odious Val woman screeching “Throw him out!”—was exceptionally powerful and chilling. The group, in their fear, had talked themselves into a frenzy, feeding off each other, bringing themselves to the point that they resolved to do something none of them would normally ever contemplate. They turned on the Doctor when he tried to persuade them out of their murderous frenzy. Here we see what fear makes humans do when they’re scared and in a group. Even Jethro, easily the most reasonable and level-headed of the lot, in the end succumbed to the collective hysteria of the group, almost committing murder alongside his father and Professor Hobbes. Only the Hostess’s heroic act of self-sacrifice stopped them from throwing the Doctor to his death, and it was obvious the group were horrified to realise what they’d almost done. Who was the real monster here?

This script relied on a cast of convincing, realistic, fleshed-out characters, and that’s what we saw: seven well-developed, relatable characters whose dialogue made for a chillingly realistic playing-out of events. We were familiarised effectively with all of them at the beginning of the story: charming, if flawed, but essentially ordinary people. We saw them transform into monsters over the course the episode. It was all the more disturbing, watching these people become frenzied murderous animals, when you remembered how charming and quaint and normal they all seemed at the beginning. The acting all-round was just superlative, the passion and the fear and the hysteria of the characters was all eerily believable. Lesley Sharp as Sky was particularly captivating, her facial acting as she played Sky possessed by the creature genuinely chilling. David Tennant, needless to say, was magnificent—easily one of his best performances yet.

I think this is probably Russell T Davies’ best script. It’s certainly his tightest. It’s powerful, compelling and unnerving. It’s one of the few times Doctor Who in the revived series (or at all, really) has ventured beyond its standard formulas and into genuinely provocative, creative territory. It’s one of the most bracing and thought-provoking stories Doctor Who has ever done. Who would have thought such a simple concept could be realised so powerfully? Its simplicity is its genius: it’s simply humanity laid bare, naked, in all our ugly glory. Warts and all.

Rating: 10/10.

Thoughts on: Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead

Once again Steven Moffat has delivered an absolute triumph of a story. This two-parter was exciting, scary, beautiful, tear-jerking and completely engrossing. It exercised the nerves like only a Moffat story can, and was also generously laden with absorbing character drama, electric dialogue, and some of the most beautiful moments ever in this show. It featured a cast of wonderful characters, including the enigmatic River Song, Moffat here setting up one of the major story arcs of the Matt Smith era. I don’t know how Moffat does it, but, in each of his four stories that I’ve watched in this marathon, I’ve always been left quite blown away by what I’ve just watched. He’s an exceptional writer who has arguably produced more outright classics for the Doctor Who corpus than any other writer, and this is one of his best and one that I personally adore.

The setting for this story was ingenious, the largest library in the universe, spanning an entire planet. The Library is easily one of the most interesting worlds which have featured in Doctor Who, and I’d imagine if the show had had a bigger budget, this story could have been visually spectacular. The immediate mystery that strikes the Doctor and Donna, of course, was where all the people were in this enormous library. In classic Moffat style, the story is scarcely underway before the air of conspiracy and spookiness descends when the talking statue urges them, “Run. For God’s sake, run.” An altercation with some shadows and a rendezvous with an archaeology expedition later, and it becomes clear that they are dealing with the Vashta Nerada, which are, in truth, a bargain-price monster if there ever was one, but not that that detracts from their scariness and menace at all. In fact, the gimmick—that they can be “any” shadow—makes them more effective. I was too old to be genuinely scared by the Vashta Nerada when this story was first broadcast, but I’m sure if I had been a few years younger I’d have been properly creeped. That said, their devouring of the sweet Miss Evangelista, and her subsequent “ghosting” through her thought patterns stored on her communication device was surely one of the most disturbing things Doctor Who has ever shown. It was heart-rending and, as Donna said, quite horrible.

It becomes clear that the little girl, Cal, is somehow connected. I think the plotline around Cal and her absorption of people into the virtual world of the Library computer was marvellous writing which elevated this script from what would have been a fairly standard, albeit creepy, runaround to a true triumph of storytelling and drama. Cal in her living room seeing visions of the Doctor and the Library and controlling it all with her television remote was intriguing enough, but the virtual world that she created for Donna and, assumingly, everyone else she “saved” was just spellbinding viewing, and truly interesting experimental television. The sequences showing Donna living in her fictional world were really quite unsettling. When Miss Evangelista showed up, whom I initially thought was a Dementor, telling Donna that her perceived life was a lie, it all got very Matrix—in a good way—it was terrifically chilling: by the time Donna tore off Miss Evangelista’s veil, revealing a freakish distortion where that pretty face of hers used to be, I was totally mesmerised. The revelation of what CAL was, and how the little girl was connected to it all, was really well done. CAL’s identity, and the purpose of the Library, was touching. Cal, by the way, was played really well by Eve Newton, easily one of the better child actors we’ve seen yet on Doctor Who.

I wasn’t altogether impressed by the explanation for what would happen to the Vashta Nerada. I’ve read the transcript and I’m still not sure what happened to them, perhaps this story’s sole fault. Nevertheless, the resolution, with River’s sacrificing herself in the Doctor’s place to restore all the people downloaded to the computer’s hard drive, saying her heartbreaking farewell to the Doctor, was tear-jerking. It contained some of the most beautiful dialogue Moffat has written.

River: “If you die here, it’ll mean I’ve never met you.”
Doctor: “Time can be rewritten.”
River: “Not those times. Not one line. Don’t you dare. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s not over for you. You’ll see me again. You’ve got all of that to come. You and me, time and space. You watch us run.”

I thought all of the scenes between River and the Doctor in this story were incredibly touching, particularly the moment River uttered the Doctor’s name in his ear; that was spine-chilling, and Tennant’s acting when River did that powerfully conveyed the Doctor’s utter stupefaction. Moffat couldn’t have done better to set up River’s story arc. Further, it was obvious how painful it was for River for the Doctor not to recognise her. We were seeing at the same time the beginning and the end of a love story, the love story of two time travellers travelling in opposite directions. How tragic is it to see a lover pained by the love of her life seeing her and not knowing her? Perhaps equally as tragic as it was elating when the Doctor bounded furiously through the Library when he realised he could save River, restoring her to the Library’s virtual world with her friends, his first act of love for River. That was a genuinely stirring, heartwarming sequence, and I’m not ashamed to say I got a catch in my throat when I watched that. It was beautiful.

Another astounding script from Moffat, pulling off the feat of employing Moffat’s traditional talent for scares and chills at the same time as delivering a script with more than one memorable moment seized with emotion. Although Moffat has delivered superior scripts, this one certainly ranks among his best, and to an extent I love it more than any of his others; there’s just something about which plays on the emotions and makes one remember it so fondly. It’s a classic to be sure.

Rating: 10/10.

Thoughts on: The Unicorn and the Wasp

A story idea about Agatha Christie and a giant wasp is naturally going to incite scepticism. It just sounds too silly for words. Remarkably, though, this story managed to play out that idea totally convincingly and without a hint of self-conscious irony. Admittedly, the giant wasp was the most problematic aspect of this otherwise fantastic episode (as a giant chicken was in a subsequent story about a historical figure)—some other alien form could surely have been used?—but the story itself was so enjoyable and well executed that the ludicrousness of a giant alien wasp didn’t overtly detract from the quality of the story. The story premise of a murder mystery in a 1920s aristocratic house featuring the investigative team of the Doctor and Agatha Christie was inspired, and was played out onscreen as thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining viewing. Excellent use was made of classic Agatha Christie motifs in tribute to the latter’s stories: the charming setting of a party at an upper class country house, the interrogation of witnesses (who are all lying, of course), the dignified dinner scene in the midst of murders, the scene where the investigator gathers the witnesses and suspects to reveal the murderer…

Agatha Christie was played really well by Fenella Woolgar, who captured the novelist’s character perfectly. It was endearing seeing Christie cope with her insecurities about her works and her personal life, especially when she seemed irritated when the Doctor and Donna kept praising her works. Donna’s intimate conversation with Christie was especially touching. Seeing that side of Donna, caring and compassionate, always brings a smile to my face. The investigative partnership of Christie and the Doctor was excellent: the ultimate detective duo. I also liked how Christie, that paragon of respectable Englishness, was shown to be opening her mind to the weird and wonderful due to the Doctor’s influence, much like Charles Dickens did.

I didn’t have particularly much to say about this episode, just that it was an enjoyable and successful tribute to arguably the greatest crime novelist of them all. That said, there should definitely be a story in which the Doctor meets Arthur Conan-Doyle…

Rating: 8/10.

Thoughts on: The Doctor’s Daughter

The Doctor’s Daughter was both a fun and powerful story, managing to insert solemn and compellingly-explored moral themes into what was at the same time a fun romp about the Doctor’s cloned “daughter”. Jenny was simply awesome. Apart from being completely gorgeous, Georgia Moffett’s character was sweet, adorably exuberant, feisty and spirited. Who, honestly, watched Jenny seduce the guard to steal his gun, or somersault her way through the laser beams, without a broad grin on their face? (By the way, where did she learn to seduce like that? Surely she didn’t get it from the Doctor…?) I think the audience would have been left exceedingly fond of Jenny by the end of the episode, looking forward to seeing her begin travelling with the Doctor. I was, at least. She would have made an excellent companion to the Doctor, I think. At the very least, her character had too much potential for nothing more to be done with her, especially given that very suggestive final scene. It’s an enormous shame that her character has been all but forgotten about ever since, and too much time has passed for something substantial to be done with her. Even a one-off appearance would have been nice (would still be nice?)

Another great aspect of this episode was its exploring of the Doctor’s feelings about the Time Lords and his lost home. The Doctor at first refused to accept that Jenny was a Time Lord, considering that to call her a Time Lord would be an insult to the memory of his lost civilisation. “You’re an echo, that’s all. A Time Lord is so much more. A sum of knowledge, a code, a shared history, a shared suffering. Only it’s gone now, all of it. Gone forever.” Tennant portrayed, as always, the Doctor’s pain and suppressed trauma over the loss of his planet and people really powerfully, saying so little but expressing so much. Tennant does that very well. The Doctor warmed to Jenny when he saw that she was more like him than he realised, although uncertain how he would deal with being constantly reminded of the Time War if Jenny were to come with him. The Doctor admitted something very telling when he agreed with Donna when she said “You talk all the time, but you don’t say anything.” The Doctor grieves in private. From the rare instances where we see the Doctor open up about the Time War, it’s obvious that his grief and pain is simply too much to bear talking about, to even bear thinking about. So what do you do when you’re in emotional suffering but find things to distract yourself with? That about sums up the Doctor of the revived series.

Donna was exemplary in this episode. Again she showed what a caring and compassionate person she is when she made the Doctor see Jenny for who she is, his daughter; and in her not unsuccessful efforts at getting the Doctor to open up about his feelings (something I think Martha would not have had success in doing). The writers have really put a lot of attention into making Donna a quality companion whom the audience cares about, and Donna truly is a great companion to the Doctor as a result, in every sense of the word. Donna also showed her resourcefulness in figuring out the mystery behind the numbers printed everywhere, showing she’s more than just a good mate to the Doctor.

The setting was really intriguing, and the war between the humans and Hath made for a great opportunity to discuss the futility of war and the morality of fighting. I sometimes find it remarkable that, after all this time, the Doctor still holds to his lofty, some would say naïve, pacifistic ideals. Surely after 900 years and having seen war and bloodshed everywhere he goes, and having engaged in his fair share of violence himself, he would be jaded and resigned to the reality of an unrelentingly violent world? I think, in this story, we’re given a compelling answer to that particular question: it’s exactly because of all the violence the Doctor has seen and done that he continues to so abhor it. He said, very tellingly, to Jenny: “The killing. After a while, it infects you. And once it does, you’re never rid of it.” He’s as good as admitting that his own experiences in war, probably one war in particular, caused him to develop a terrible revulsion of violence, and repelled him from ever contemplating violence again. Excellent writing in any case, particularly the very powerful “I never would” moment. Wonderful stuff.

Rating: 8/10.